March 19th, 2008
01:59 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama needles McCain on Iran gaffe


Watch portions of Obama's speech Tuesday.

(CNN) - Barack Obama on Wednesday took aim at potential rival John McCain over the Arizona senator's apparent misstep at a recent press conference in Jordan, the latest sign Democrats are looking to capitalize on the moment.

"Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda," Obama said during a speech on Iraq Wednesday morning. "Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.

The gaffe in question occurred during a news conference in Jordan Tuesday, when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee repeatedly said Iran was supplying al Qaeda. Iran is predominately a Shiite country and is not aiding the Sunni dominated Al-Qaeda.

McCain ultimately corrected himself after Sen. Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear.

"I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. I am sorry," the Arizona senator said.

The Democratic National Committee immediately seized on the comment, saying the misstep raises question over whether McCain "can be trusted to offer a clear way forward." It also forwarded a transcript of a recent interview in which he appears to make the same mistake.

McCain's campaign hit back on the DNC comments, saying the "Democrats have launched political attacks today because they know the American people have deep concerns about their candidates’ judgment and readiness to lead as commander in chief.”

In his speech Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Obama also criticized McCain for his continued support for an "open-ended war."

"Now we know what we’ll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender," he said. "That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. "

UPDATE: Responding to Obama's comments, McCain senior adviser Mark Salter said, "John McCain wants American forces to come home when our clear and serious interests at stake in Iraq, which nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure, are truly safe, when al Qaeda is defeated; Iran's influence is contained, and the potential for a truly cataclysmic civil war in Iraq is remote. That, I think, is what is called 'making us safer.'

"Senator Obama's plan, if it can be charitably described as one, would do the reverse."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Ron, TX

    The GOOD Judgment to Lead!
    Go Obama!

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. Jimmy

    Oh piss off Obama. Obama lies and has poor judgmenet. Who are you to ask McCain anything. Go back to Rev Wright.

    March 19, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Benny

    anything to divert from his own issues

    March 19, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  4. Anna in Las Vegas

    McCain is a great American patriot. But it's just enough to a patriot when making presidential decisions over life and death, war and peace. In dealings with foreign countries you need to exercise good judgment and apply thorough knowledge of the regions. Patriotism can actually blind you making smart strategic decisions. McCain seems to suffer from patriotism blindness. No doubt he may be a an "all American" and decisive leader, but that's just not enough.

    March 19, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. DC Rose

    McCain is senile and getting more senile each day. He really is a nice man. He should retire to Arizona.

    March 19, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. bad idea

    You know what Obama.Stop condeming on other ppl misspoken as you did the same mistake as well.Most of ppl I know misspoken as well.Why dont you tell me how come the company who contributes to your campaign employed lobbyist?And wht dont you tell me why the University of Chicago who received your earmarks contribute $168,000 dollars to your campagin.You never were in Senate to vote for the war so I dont take that account you are against war.You are manupulative as ever.Ppl should read your bio

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Maggie

    Not a good idea Obama Campaign. We don't want to start becoming like Hillary's camp. Let the McCain gaffe go–he misspoke, nothing more.

    Obama 08

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Kerry

    While McCain is running a muck in the Middle East and Clinton is out blaming Obama for the mistakes of Michigan's that were due to their state official's own arrogance, Obama is focusing on the issues.

    Instead of endorsing McCain and tearing down Obama, Hillary should be focus on the issues and attacking the McCain's embrace of Bush's policy.

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Benny

    anything to divert from his own issues

    Ohh BTW i am loving all the flags behind him as of late,

    My no lappel sure has a lot a flags behind him !!

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Christian, Tampa FL

    Obama has every right to attack McCain on this gaffe with full fury. We cannot afford another commander in chief that doesn't understand the full distinctions between the region's players. What McCain said was disturbing and unhelpful, regardless of his correction. We must not elect him President, for the good of this nation and its place in the 21st Century world.

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Stacy Clarks, Texas

    this might be a recurring dream...o wait, no, it happened when Bush first took office and it became clear he knew NOTHING!! (do we want another 4 years of that?!?!)

    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. ross

    Well done, Barack! You gave another great speech. Two for two!

    March 19, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Frank DeLorey

    Obama should be more concerned over his own memory loss. I never heard Reverend Wright say these things in church and now....I heard him say these things in church. The fact is that Obama bought into the hate speech and can not climb out so he tries to divert attention to McCain's mistake. Yup he certainly is a Uniter.l

    March 19, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. ANA

    I have been a democrat all my life. But recognize that needling McCain for a silly mistake is far below standard. Obama will do and say and deny and give excuses for anything. Obama's list of "mistakes" (pressing the wrong button when voting, dealing with Rezko, lying about "I never heard reverend Wright say that" and then contradicting himself in his "race" speech and many many more) totally disqualifies him from criticising McCain for a gaffe. Come on is this the way you plan to win the election? Where is your judgement (or did you loose it dealing with Rezko or Wright)?
    By the way, todays's polls show that Hillary would beat McCain by 6 percentage points while Obama would tie (47 to 46 %).
    Thing are moving in the right direction.

    HILLARY 08

    March 19, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. L, TN

    Barry you're takin cheap shots at a war hero. But coming from you a man with no maturity only shows you are arrogant. The only thing you have shown you can do is tear apart your party.

    March 19, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. C Parks

    I don't know who's scarier, McCain or the Clintons. Neither can unite the country in order to effect true change in America and with our alllies and/or enemies. If there was ever a time to clear our heads and put our best and strongest foot forward – that time is now.

    It's been 40 years since we've seen a leader like Obama. Imagine the possiblities!! I'm ready to do my part!! Step up to the plate and give him your vote. Give a newer, more perfect union your vote.

    Race aside, simply sign me as

    ~ An American

    March 19, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Debby

    Wait has Obama ever been to Iraq to see what actually is going on there. How can he even comment on a situation if not experiencing first hand like McCain is. So McCain made a blunder big deal. I am more worried about a man running for Pres. who does not disown a pastor no less who G-dam's America.

    CNN print this its the truth.

    March 19, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. Proud American

    Yes!!! Its time for a President with good ideas and the capability to communicate them. Enough of the MCsame!!
    Obama '08

    March 19, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  19. lifelong democrat

    Obama worry more about taking a stand against the people by refusing to allow everyone a vote and to have votes count.

    I'll vote for McCain any day if you are the democratic nominee.

    I will also leave the Democratic party after 36 years over this rigged -in- your- favor election.

    The media and the DNC pre-elected you and then handicapped Clinton so that you would win.

    But WE the people do not want you. Only a handful of caucus voters want you.

    March 19, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  20. Mike

    Shiite/Sunni whats the difference.

    Who cares about those details in the end they are both from the same region and look similar. We should really just attack both because we are more interested in their oil then understanding their cultures.

    God Bless America.

    March 19, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. Truth_Teller

    Another brilliant speech and a show of command of the facts and issues. Point by point was made about this war and the future of defending this country.. Once again he shows how a president should conduct themselves.

    As we all seen, as little coverage it got, McCain is not the stateman or foreign policy expert we are lead to believe. How can you make a mistake like that, 3 times????? Obama pointed this out very clearly as he should have.

    March 19, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. ben

    How can anyone with an IQ above 90 ever vote for McCain?

    March 19, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. seah

    Of course all Obama Knows is how to talk

    March 19, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. Steve

    Well we now know why whenever you see pictures McCain you also see Joe Liberman behind him. He needs some one to correct his

    March 19, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. carol

    We wish you well Mr Obama. If God has chosen you nobody can stop, but if not He has a reason. You give us hope and a reason to believe that someday it will be fine. A reason to work extra hard nowing that it will pay off.

    March 19, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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